KINGSWOOD volleyball players competed on numerous offseason teams, including this Junior Olympic team, which featured Kingswood players Emily Saunders, Hailey Buck, Jackie Boucher and Kelsey Hammond and won a tournament in March. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
July 23, 2012WOLFEBORO — Coach Mike Christy is optimistic about the Kingswood volleyball program as the squad enters its 10th season.
And with all the offseason work the kids have done, he has good reason to feel that way.
"I'm thrilled," the Knight coach said. "The commitment and the dedication has gone way up in the last couple of years."
To that end, 14 different girls were playing volleyball over the winter, playing on Junior Olympic teams in Rochester, the Seacoast and the Lakes Region.
Getting the chance to play with some of the top talent from some of the top teams in the state and the region has given Christy's girls a chance to see the heights they can reach and he is excited to see them reaching toward those goals.
"They have something to look up to, they see really good players and think that's what they want to do," Christy said. "We're still a young program, we haven't had the superstar players come through, so they had nothing to judge themselves by."
With the new NHIAA regulations allowing a coach to work with his team during portions of the offseason, Christy has been working with the girls and the team has spent time working with the powerhouse Moultonborough Academy squad, which took the Division III championship last season.
"The girls have learned a lot from those kids," Christy said of the Panthers. "Going to the playoffs last year, we got to experience a little of that."
In addition to getting in the offseason time on the volleyball courts, the Knights have been putting in plenty of time working with Christy on workouts throughout the summer.
"I did five days of workouts (a week) all summer and they're showing up," Christy said. "They've bought in."
He noted that he had about 35 girls show up to most of the workouts and when the workouts were finished, they stayed and played volleyball for two hours.
"The key is, it isn't just me pushing it, they want it," Christy pointed out.
The Knight coach also worked with a group of girls during the spring sports season and said it's been great to have the kids spend time working with him in addition to their other programs, something the new NHIAA regulation allows.
"They don't have to go out to somebody else to learn," he said. "If we can work with them more, that's going to help our program because they'll know what to expect. They need consistency."
Most of the Knights will be attending the Gold Medal Squared camp, which will be taking over the Kingswood gym July 30 through Aug. 2. The camp features college coaches and players as instructors and Christy was thrilled to see the majority of his girls signed up and many girls from other local programs on deck as well.
"They want to be ready to get the most out of the camp that they can," Christy said.
Christy, entering his fourth year with the Kingswood program and his third as the varsity head coach, admits that he will be plenty busy this fall, but he doesn't mind it at all.
"I'm going to be really busy, but I'm OK with that as long as it's going to bringing success to the program," he said.
As the Kingswood volleyball program has grown, the reach of the program has as well and the last couple of years, the team has expanded to include a middle school program.
This element is key in Christy's plan to move the program forward, as the kids will come to the varsity program already knowing the basics. In the early days of the program, quite often girls would come out for the team completely unaware of the basics of the game.
"This is the first year that we've had girls coming into ninth grade with at least two years of experience," Christy said. "This is a watershed year for us and you can totally tell the difference."
He pointed out that the difference in talent level has made things quite a bit easier as the varsity coach.
"They come in with experience, with excitement, they've been playing a lot and they don't have that fear about it being a new sport," Christy stated. "If they come in with proper techniques, we can do so much more with them and we're already seeing that this summer."
And he also was quick to note that many of the incoming freshmen were providing motivation to the upperclassmen, as the skill levels are continually increasing in the younger kids.
"The kids coming in to ninth grade are trying to make the varsity, they have that fire, they want to win," Christy said. "The kids come in and push the older girls, which is what happens when the program matures.
"The older girls are already seeing it," Christy added.
Leslie Whaley returns to the middle school program and Mary Weisenburger will continue as the JV coach. Christy will also be adding a freshman program this year, as the numbers continue to grow.
"Both of them have been a huge help," Christy said of his assistants. "They're going to help the program, especially with the numbers up."
The varsity team got new uniforms last year and the girls worked fundraisers to get new uniforms for the JV and freshman teams and are hoping to do the same for new middle school uniforms in the future.
With plenty of offseason action, a healthy middle school feeder program moving along and dedicated athletes and coaches, look for Kingswood volleyball's 10th season to be its best yet.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126